Time has an excerpt from Obama’s new book (when exactly does the man find the time to “write” all these books?), The Audacity of Hope (other bad titles that were already taken: The Insolence of Optimism, The Impudence of Faith and The Derring-Do of Confidence).
The problem with the excerpt is that we have heard it almost all of it before, and we were not impressed by it the first time. The doctor from the University of Chicago urges him to use “fair-minded words” in his rhetoric about abortion, and Obama, ever-conscientious, heeds the good doctor’s advice. Okay, it’s a nice story. Maybe it’s even a true story–wouldn’t that be remarkable in itself? But how dull is it that the first part of the excerpt put up in the Time coverage is the very same anecdote recounted by Obama at his June “look at me, I’m religious, too!” speech?
“The message from the doctor at the University of Chicago” is beginning to become Obama’s signature anecedote, and it isn’t that good of an anecdote. The end of the excerpt is his recounting of his election debate with Alan Keyes, where the preposterous Keyes (preposterous for a very different set of reasons than those Obama would give) said, “Christ would not have voted for Barack Obama.” Yet again, this was a main part of his “Call to Renewal” speech from June. The text of the Keyes section and the commentary that follows appear to be lifted virtually verbatim from the book’s manuscript and inserted into the speech, or vice versa. One wonders what else there is in this book, since the things Obama apparently prefers to talk about are Alan Keyes, the problems progressives have with religion in politics, his religious upbringing and the doctor from UofC. Nothing in these remarks is terribly interesting or new. What is supposed to be interesting is that Obama is saying them–a real, live Democratic politician is talking about these things and seems to have some working familiarity with Christianity! This did not used to be a remarkable, stop-the-presses event. It says volumes about how warped the Democrats’ relationship with Christianity is that Obama’s commonplace statements are supposedly so powerful and resonant. I mean, he…actually…believes…in…God! Look out, fundies, here comes Obama!
The rest of the excerpt is the recounting of another story related to abortion politics, where we are again treated to just how fair-minded (and pro-choice) Obama is (”I understand your deep conviction on this matter, which I am now going to dismiss with stock soundbites about the safety of women”), which apparently ought to make other “fair-minded” people happy enough to notice that he hasn’t really addressed the central question of whether abortion can be morally justified or not, whether it is right for a Christian man to sanction or tolerate the constitutional fraud that gives legal protection to the murder of unborn children.
Of course, it can’t be justified and it isn’t right, which is why “fair-minded” Senators who might one day like to be President have to engage in roundabout justifications for their position, saying that they support “choice” for the sake of poor women everywhere. The phantom of the back-alley abortionist, whom the pro-choice pol has summoned from the ether, hovers nearby and is supposed to cloud the judgement of people who recognise a moral abomination when they see it. But the phantom just provides a comforting excuse to endorse something that it would be politically dangerous for a Democrat in most places to oppose. All of this is supposed to show us that Obama is thoughtful, rather than callous, profound rather than predictable, but it does not. It is the tactic of the man who says, “I appreciate your point of view,” when in fact he does not appreciate it and wants to neutralise your criticism by deflecting the question in an entirely different direction. President Bush uses this same kind of tactic when he says, “Good and patriotic people hold this view, but I just strongly disagree. I believe freedom transforms regions, burble, burble.” He then concocts a straw man position, “Those who say that Iraq would be better off as a fetid wasteland filled with suicide bombers are simply wrong,” and declares victory.
Recourse to the phantom of the back-alley abortionist is an old stand-by on the pro-abortion side, which is suppoed to work because we are supposed to believe that having the option of outlawing a vicious practice that does kill millions of children would be worse than banning said practice and potentially risking the lives of a relative handful of women. But Obama is telling us that we should be grateful that he is so thoughtful that he has chosen to condescend to us with the tired old trope.
Let’s grant that Obama is “thoughtful,” after a fashion. Is it really better to have a pro-abortion Democrat who seems to sound eminently reasonable and supposedly does not vilify his opponents, but instead claims to “understand” their views even as he waves them away with the flick of his wrist? I doubt it.